Within 12 years, the fleet of fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighters in Europe could more than quadruple.
Here's What We Know
The Falcon Strike 2022 exercise is taking place in southern Italy, where the US, Dutch and Italian air forces are practicing the joint use and maintenance of fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighters. By the way, for the first time the planes here fly with radar reflectors switched off.
Air Force chiefs from different countries came to the exercise to discuss how to maximize the effectiveness of the F-35 Lightning II fleet. The issue of joint maintenance of the fighters was one of the central topics at a press conference the military arranged for reporters.
The Italian Air Force chief, General Luca Goretti, says that in case of relocation of F-35s to the Netherlands, the service will have to send another 100 specialists after the planes. Harmonization of the fighters' maintenance procedures will make it possible to reduce the team size by 2-3 times and save the budget. Europe has already demonstrated the effectiveness of cross-maintenance of aircraft on the example of Eurofighter and Tornado.
Also at the press conference they touched upon the F-35 Lightning II fleet size. At the moment Italy possesses 21 fifth generation fighters (16 F-35A + 5 F-35B). The Netherlands has 32 planes and will receive 14 more within two years.
James Hecker, commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe and Africa, expects the total number of F-35 Lightning II planes in Europe to be more than 600 by 2034. According to the general, it will be "very powerful" and will serve as a signal to any NATO adversary.
Source: Defense News